Secrets and legends of the cellars in Castle Hill (FAQ)

Is it true that the cellar system was kept secret?

Yes. The bomb shelters developed in the cellar system for ministry and government officers before and during the Second World War were treated confidentially. After the war, during the times of the cold war, almost the entire area beneath the Castle was declared as confidential, and it remained like this until the late 60’s. The last section of the cellars was declassified a few years ago and by now the whole area has been made public.

Is it true that a secret command post was operated in the low level cellars beneath the Castle until the change in the regime?

Yes, the Air-raid Civil Defense Centre of District I was operated with permanent duty personnel in the northern part of the cellar network until 1989.

Are there underground passages leading from the Castle to other settlements or under the river Danube?

No, although numerous descriptions, legends and gossips mention such passages. Various sources refer to tunnels running toward Miklós square in Old Buda (Óbuda), Visegrád, Budafok, the Gellért hill (Gellért-hegy), the Margaret island (Margit-sziget) or even Pest under the river Danube (Duna). This latter one is very unlikely also due to the fact that such underwater tunnels could not be built centuries ago. The legends might be based on the large number of hidden exits and the so-called courier passages which lead from the Labyrinth of Buda Castle to Hunyadi János street.

Is it true that the labyrinth system has three or even more levels at some places?

Most of the underground cellar system of the Castle has two levels. The upper level beneath the street level consists of built cellars with arched ceiling, and the steps going down to the cellars open from the floor of these cellars. However, there is a third cellar level excavated in the rock between these two levels at several places. In addition, there are cellars and bomb shelters built under the basement in the marl using mining techniques. So at some places the cellar system has 4-5 levels.

Is it true that people hid their assets in the cellars beneath the Castle during sieges or from tax collectors in times of peace?

Yes. Several authentic records reveal that the people living in the Castle hid their valuable belongings in peacetime. They also hid here from sieges or fire. It is known that people survived the great fire of Buda Castle in 1723 in the Turkish cellars - as they were called at that time.

Could the army of defense really be rearranged during sieges in the Buda Castle under the ground?

Although it is stated in several legends, it is unlikely to be true as the recesses and halls had not been connected to each other before World War II. Rearranging could have only been performed if there had been further passages below these cellars but no such passages are known.

Is it true that the Holy Crown of Hungary, the coronation mantle and the golden reserve were kept in the cellarss beneath the Castle during World War II?

Yes, there were two places under the Buda Castle adapted to safeguard the Holy Crown and other valuables though neither of them was in the cellars but beneath them in rooms built in the marl (soil). The Holy Crown was stored here for a while, and a part of the golden stock was kept in the bomb shelters and bank vaults of the Hungarian National Bank under the address 72 Úri street. The coronation mantle was too large to be carried through any of the doors, therefore, it was not kept here.

Is it true that Russian soldiers attacked the wounded people and hospital personnel with flame guns at the end of World War II?

No, although such things did occur during World War II in other places (for instance in the temporary wound dressing stations beneath the Palace), but not in the civilian bomb shelter system of the City. And these shelter systems did not burn out either.

Was the electricity supply of the country managed for decades from the cellars beneath the Castle?

Yes, between 1951 and 1989, the distributing mains of the country and of Budapest operated in the bomb shelter built secretly in the cellars by the Hungarian National Bank before and in the course of World War II under the address 72 Úri street. The electricity supply of the country was managed from this 11-storey deep air-raid shelter.

Is it true that living people were found in the cellars years after the war?

Of course, not. It is physically impossible to survive – even if supplies are available – under such severe conditions.

Is it true that the armies of defenses assaulted the invaders using the passages that had exits under the old castle walls built on the rock?

It is an assumption but no supporting data are available. However, it is consider unlikely by military historians. The initial castle walls cannot be seen now as they are behind the present walls in the ground. The only place where the rock is visible beneath the wall is at the Fisherman’s Bastion (Halászbástya).

Is it true that Turkish pashas ordered that the odalisques who they had got bored of should be bricked in the cellars under the Castle or thrown in the wells?

No sufficient evidence is available although there are several fables of such happenings. According to the historians, it is not likely to be true, but as a matter of fact, several female skeletons were found in one of the castle wells.

Are there underground lakes under the Castle?

Not anymore, but about a hundred years ago (before the level of groundwater decreased below the floor level of the cellars) there were cellars near Dísz square with water in them. These waters seemed very deep because of the reflected rock ceiling but their depths were actually only a few spans.

Is it true that an ancient watercourse, tools used by prehistoric men and bones of extinct ancient creatures were found under the Castle?

Yes, it is. At the end of 1939, Ottokár Kadic found an ancient watercourse hollowed in the marl, tools used by prehistoric men and bones of ancient elephants and rhinos in the depth of 22 meters when building the secret bomb shelter of the Hungarian National Bank under the address 72 Úri street. A part of a mammoth tooth was also found in one of the most beautiful halls of the underground cellar network.